Santana’s Karl Perazzo & Raul Rekow

Karl Perazzo

(Left) Karl Perazzo

DRUM!: What’s a good example of that?
Perazzo: Well, like in “Smooth,” for instance, how he had Raul change the conga part.
Rekow: Actually, that came from the demo.
Perazzo: Oh, did it?
Rekow: Yeah. I pretty much copped what I heard on the demo, which I thought was cool. So I mentioned it to the producer, who was also one of the writers on the song. He was there in the studio, and I went up to him and said, “Listen, I kind of like what you had on the machine, so I’d like to try to cop that because I think it works well.” He said, “That’s cool, but feel free to change it as well.” So I kept that in some parts, and changed it in others.

DRUM!: Is there a good example of a part that both of you came up with on your own, and then brought to Carlos?
Perazzo: On the latest record that’s going to come out, we all did some writing together. Once we’re in a writing mode, then everyone is in a listening mode. We kind of just borrow of each other. If it’s a certain groove, and Carlos says, “Hey, can you guys come up with something, or a chant?” Then Raul and I will come up with a vocal thing, or a rhythmic thing, and it kind of works like that. He gives us that opportunity right there on the spot. It’s really up to us at that point to produce. But the door is always open. As far as the musical vocabulary between Raul and I, it’s so strong, we can just hop on. It’s like, “you do this, I’ll do that.” It becomes like a big giant machine after a while.
Rekow: This might be a little bit off the point [turns to Karl], but last night after I talked to you, I broke out some video tapes that were sent to me, and I was enjoying some of our old solos. I mean, solos from ’92 up until now. Man, there’s some incredible stuff there, Karl.
Perazzo: Yeah, I’ve got to see that.
Rekow: I mean, we did some duets that have to rival Orestes Vilato and these cats – I swear to God. Wait until you see this. Especially when we did the [starts singing], you were playing the cascara on the side of the congas, playing quinto with your left, it sounds like ten people. We’re singing the chorus, the lead vocal, holding time, and improvising, all at the same time together. The difficulty, the complexity of that, it’s almost impossible.
Perazzo: But it was fun! [laughs]
Rekow: But it’s not only like patting your head and rubbing your stomach…

DRUM!: …and doing the “Riverdance.” [both laugh]
Rekow: Yeah, and doing a dance, and singing at the same time. That independence is pretty phenomenal.
Perazzo: I think one of the things that made it a little bit easier for me to come in and kind of find my place in this band was that I listened to Raul, and the players before Raul when I was a kid. I always thought that when they made that switch to Raul, he added that fire. I kind of knew what my place was immediately. Again, you don’t really know until you’re there, how incredibly it gelled.
Rekow: That’s what was amazing to me about the videos that I was watching. When Karl and I play together, we really hear each other. We know where we are in the bar. That only comes from time and listening and a certain chemistry. I mean, some guys can play together for their whole lives, and not have the same chemistry that Karl and I have. Last night I was just thinking how thankful I am to have met Karl, because he’s a part of me. He’s my right arm, and I’m his right arm.
Perazzo: [nodding approvingly] Likewise, for me. My family, all my cousins, they’re always bragging about Raul, like “he’s the man!” [laughs]

Chemistry Lessons

DRUM!: There was a moment while you were rehearsing when you two looked at each other at precisely the same instant. You just seemed to say something significant right then.
Perazzo: We had spoken to each other. There is an inner language, and if you’re humble enough, you can understand the language. You can understand what Dennis said to me as he went to the cymbals. So I look over at them and it’s like, “I got it.” And they’ll smile at me or wink. Raul and I are to a point where we say the same thing at the same time. We’re almost twins now.
Rekow: This happens to us a lot. That’s chemistry. Basically, any musician in the Santana band has to have big ears. You have to listen to the soloist and support the soloist. There’s a couple ways of doing that. You can do it, first of all, by holding the groove. The second is to embellish behind them without getting in their way. There’s another thing too where sometimes it’s a call-and-answer. Sometimes Carlos will ask a question on his guitar and either Karl or myself will answer it. And it just so happened that a little while ago Carlos asked a question, and Karl and I gave the same answer at the same time. That’s why we looked at each other.

DRUM!: How long does it take to get to that point?
Perazzo: It takes years of listening, and years of submission. I mean, look. I’m Karl Perazzo, that’s Raul Rekow, and that’s Dennis Chambers. I submit to those guys, and vice-versa. There’s no “I’m the leader over here.” That’s not going to fly. I think that’s what makes the magic. After a gig in Seattle Dennis said, “I don’t know why so many drummers have a hard time. All I’ve got to do is sit back and listen.” That’s Dennis Chambers saying that. And Carlos told me one time, “That’s why God made the world round, so that everybody could have center stage.”

DRUM!: When did you two know you had something special, playing together?
Perazzo: To be frankly honest, the very first day, in 1991. And I’ll tell you why. I grew up listening to Raul, I’m a fan. Before a brother, I was a fan. You’re talking to a student.

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